US ethanol exports set new record in 2018 at 1.7 billion gallons

By Erin Voegele | March 06, 2019

U.S. ethanol exports reached a record 1.7 billion gallons in 2018, according to data released by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service on March 6. When compared to 2017, ethanol exports increased by 23 percent. Exports of distillers grains also increased last year.  

According to the data, the U.S. exported ethanol to more than 80 countries last year. Brazil, Canada and India were the top export destinations for U.S. ethanol, with volumes reaching 513.23 million gallons, 349.17 million gallons, and 156.82 million gallons, respectively.

The value of those ethanol exports reached $2.75 billion, up from $2.42 billion in 2017.

The data also shows the U.S. exported 11.88 million metric tons of distillers grains last year to approximately 50 countries, up from 11.03 million metric tons in 2017.  Mexico was the top destination for distillers grains exports in 2018 at 2.01 million metric tons, followed by Vietnam with 1.25 million metric tons and South Korea with 1.15 million metric tons.

The value of distillers grains exports reached $2.47 billion, up from $1.85 billion, according to the FAS.

Reflecting on the record year ethanol exports, Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said, “One of the greatest successes for our industry in 2018 was growth in the export market, driven in large part by the sustained international market development efforts of RFA and its partners. More than one out of every 10 gallons of ethanol produced in the United States went into the international market—providing savings at the pump and cleaner air for drivers in more than 80 countries around the globe. This accomplishment is even more impressive when you consider that U.S. ethanol faced punitive trade barriers in several key markets. RFA will continue to work with its partners to break down artificial trade barriers, expand export opportunities for U.S. producers, and educate the world’s consumers on the benefits of low-carbon renewable fuels.”

Growth Energy said the FAS data shows leveraging the benefits of ethanol is a growing international trend.  “The global appetite for ethanol has never been higher,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “Countries around the globe are recognizing the significant role biofuels play in achieving their economic and climate goals. At Growth Energy, we are working to keep this incredible momentum going so the global ethanol outlook continues to flourish in 2019.”

“We have seen impressive growth in biofuels markets abroad over the past three years, especially in a number of key markets,” added Craig Willis, senior vice president of global markets at Growth Energy. “With the highest national blend rate in the world Brazil, in particular, has seen record-breaking imports on the year. We look forward to growing the opportunities for ethanol producers and farmers through continued engagement with key partners like Canada on biofuels policy while working to reduce trade barriers in China and the EU.”

Additional data on ethanol and distillers grains exports can be accessed on the USDA FAS website.